It’s no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet appointments have rattled a few cages – and the choice of Kerry McCarthy as shadow Defra secretary is just one of many. The MP for Bristol East (a city that Anthony Whitehead described a few weeks ago as employing a ‘totalitarian brand of environmental idealism’) has made her views on both meat eating and rural pursuits clear in the past, and has a fair few critics already.
It has already been pointed out elsewhere that putting a vegan in charge of representing the farming industry is slightly odd – but then again, vegetarian Hilary Benn was Defra secretary for three years. But that isn’t the only black mark against her. She is also Vice President of the League Against Cruel Sports – who earlier this year hardened their stance on hunting to include calling for a ban on trail hunting – and has encouraged people to ‘back the ban’ on foxhunting. She is ‘against all shooting “sports” where there’s a living creature on both ends of the gun’, and has also spoken out against the badger cull. Although her views on horse racing aren’t crystal clear, she has asked questions in the Commons about regulation of the industry and voted to ban the use of the whip. If she were in favour of banning it altogether, I have to say I wouldn’t be surprised.
So what do those in favour of field sports making of the decision? The British Association for Shooting and Conservation have said that they hope she ‘will approach her new post of the basis of evidence based policy’ and will ‘give shooting a fair hearing’. Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance has been more outspoken:
‘We look forward to hearing how Ms McCarthy, who is patron of the Vegan society which believes “animal farming is no longer sustainable and severely damaging to the environment” and is “against all shooting sports” intends to re-engage the Labour party with the rural community.’
The current Defra secretary Liz Truss has, on the other hand, extended the badger cull, supports a repeal of the Hunting Act, and seems unlikely to be in agreement with Ms McCarthy on many rural issues. Will rural voters be convinced by Labour’s green policies? It remains to be seen, but either way, Defra questions will certainly be made more interesting.